Why a classroom culture of kindness is so important

Encouraging students to be supportive and respectful of each other starts in the classroom, writes Mark Beetlestone

Be kind to your students, and they will be kind to you, says college lecturer Mark Beetlestone

As an IT lecturer, I will be the first to admit that the course I teach attracts a certain type of student. I can say this with conviction because I was one of those students when I was younger. I loved tinkering with computers, I loved video games and I loved finding out how it all sang and danced together. I really enjoyed pushing the technology to its limits and doing things my friends couldn't do. I knew I wanted a career in the world of IT when I grew up. 

This attitude and a love for technology is something I notice in my learners and is something that I aim to nurture during their time with me.


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Happier at college

When I think back to my experience of time at college, I look back most fondly on my computing lessons. I attribute this largely to the friends I made during these lessons. From my experience, school tends to be a harsh environment for “IT types”. Often they don't have a huge number of peers with similar interests to talk with about their hobbies and passions, and this can potentially lead to quite an insular environment for them. 

Upon arrival to college, however, they find themselves in classes with people who share those same passions. I have seen so many times students start their time at college and totally come out of their shell within the first few weeks. It’s fascinating to watch these nervous students who previously hid themselves away suddenly being presented with the opportunity to talk, discuss, debate and ultimately express their feelings with excitement and great gusto. Those students who were the quiet ones, the shy ones, the slightly “nerdy” (for want of a better word) ones who never spoke out transform into confident and passionate learners, supported and encouraged by their peers. 

Fostering a “culture of kindness” in the classroom is something that is rarely talked about: it often happens organically and is something that is felt rather than measured. Students being supportive, kind and respectful to each other should be a major factor in their life at college. This community begins with their teacher and should flow through their experience at their place of study. Be kind to your students, and they will be kind to you.

IT students aren’t alone in this. Coming to college allows all learners to associate and create communities with like-minded people. They are (hopefully!) on a course that they have a passion for and should be able to share experiences in ways they haven’t been able to before. For some students, coming to college might be the first time they feel like they “belong” somewhere.

Mark Beetlestone is a curriculum area lead at Fareham College in Hampshire

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